There was a long piece in the Sunday Standard yesterday on one (in fact, the first) of the so-called Millennium Villages, Sauri in Siaya District, Western Kenya. An initiative of the Earth Institute at Columbia University launched in 2004, the Millennium Villages project aims “to demonstrate how the eight Millennium Development Goals can be met in rural Africa within five years through community-led development.”
The Millennium Village effort is explicitly linked to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and addresses an integrated and scaled-up set of interventions covering food production, nutrition, education, health services, roads, energy, communications, water, sanitation, enterprise diversification and environmental management. This has never been done before.
Twelve villages were chosen in sub-Saharan Africa: these were all located in hunger hotpots, but different agro-ecological zones. The Sauri experience seems to be very positive, but it is difficult to ascertain exactly what sort of agricultural interventions have been tried. Maize yields have gone up dramatically, but why exactly? Better access to fertilizers (because of subsidized prices) is probably one reasons, though “fertilizer trees” (for more on these, see this separate piece from SciDevNet, which coincidentally came out a couple of days back) and other nitrogen-fixing species seem to also have been tried to improve fallows. A detailed report mentions indigenous vegetables, but little else in the way of agrobiodiversity-related interventions (or indeed baseline information) as far as the crops are concerned. A pity.
The BBC has some pictures of Sauri here.